Scott McCartney‘s Middle Seat column is on frequent flyers whose other halves aren’t as adept at the airport.
One spouse rushes through PreCheck security screening, leaving the other seething with the baby and diaper bag in the slow screening lane. Or maybe one heads off to the bathroom shortly before boarding, spoiling the other’s carefully planned early-boarding rush.
Travel is full of stresses. But for couples with different flying predilections, the knives can really come out, especially when only one is an experienced traveler with deep-rooted habits.
Goodness knows I have my routines. I go through security rapidly, in a second nature kind of way. Do I want to go to the club, or head straight to the gate? With north of 150 segments last year it’s a decision I made by myself most of the time, without checking with anyone else. Thinking through someone else’s needs — especially in a habit-driven environment — is something that takes work for me.
McCartney relayed that for Pizza in Motion, “traveling with his wife meant convincing her not to check a bag. Michelle Pizzarello used to love to pack with amenities like a hair dryer and check a bag, leaving her hands free in the airport to get coffee.”
Checked bags are evil. Not only do they get lost, but they mean you need to get to the airport earlier and you waste time on arrival at baggage claim. Multiply an extra hour per direction out over the course of 30 years worth of trips and you’re talking about a month of your life waiting on checked luggage.
Apparently Ed Pizza isn’t very good at keeping open a middle seat on Southwest when traveling with his family. He makes eye contact, making it easy for a passenger to sit in his row. When really he needs to ball up a bunch of tissues, put them on the empty seat next to him, and pretend to be sick.
One truism is that the frequent flyer in the family is expected to know how everything works, and expected to make everything go smoothly. Upgrades are appreciated at first, but then they become a baseline. A partner may not know how it all works, just that it does, and it seems to come so naturally. That’s a high bar to meet, and failing to meet it may not be met with understanding since they don’t even really know the moving pieces that have to come together.
The upgrade trick is how Mommy Points got her husband into travel.
On every trip, she tried to make it comfortable for him with upgrades or extra legroom seats, upgraded hotel rooms, and nice rental cars. He got hooked. “His first trip to Europe we did in business class,” she says. “I was trying to find whatever works, and making him spoiled works.”
How do you handle travel on your own, versus with a spouse, friends or family?
- What if you’ve got PreCheck and they don’t?
- Are you responsible for upgrades?
- Can you get them to go carry on-only?
- Does it frustrate you when it takes so much longer to get through the airport?
Road warriors unite!